UK Women's Basketball

Mitchell says UK women can learn a lot from loss at Notre Dame

Matthew Mitchell yelled during the Cats' 92-83 loss Sunday to Notre Dame. He said the game film "was painful to watch."
Matthew Mitchell yelled during the Cats' 92-83 loss Sunday to Notre Dame. He said the game film "was painful to watch."

At this time of year, most people cozy up on the couch to watch a favorite holiday movie.

Not Matthew Mitchell.

There's no It's a Wonderful Life or Holiday Inn for the Kentucky coach.

His video of choice has been No. 8 Kentucky's 92-83 loss at third-ranked Notre Dame this past weekend.

It's not because it's a feel-good movie, either.

"It was painful to watch," he said. "It was just so painful for me to watch us not show up and do our best."

A few cooling-off days did not change the coach's perspective much on the loss, which ended UK's 10-game win streak.

The Cats (10-1) face Samford (6-4) on Wednesday in Memorial Coliseum.

If there is a warm, fuzzy movie ending Mitchell can take from the loss, it's that the Irish provided him with some legitimate teaching tools.

"We see areas — so many areas — where we can improve, and now it's time to go about the business of improving them," he said.

One thing the Irish did is make UK hesitant in its half-court offense, Mitchell said.

"A big favor they did for us is, they showed a blueprint for how you take some things away," he said.

Mitchell saw some improvement in UK's half-court offense in the second half, specifically setting up and executing the pick and roll. Samantha Drake had a career-high 21 points in large part thanks to that.

"We still have major issues with spacing and kids reading (the defense)," Mitchell said. "What a great game for us to not get away with some of the things we've been able to get away with."

But the coach wasn't completely bah-humbug in his assessment of Kentucky's abilities.

After all, the team is second in the nation in scoring (85.4 points a game), and it is tops in the nation in turnover margin at plus-15.7.

"I'm 100 percent of the belief that we have a talented team, and that if we can get it together, there is not a game we should go into feeling like we don't have a chance," he said. "Even on a day where we didn't play our best (Notre Dame), we had a chance.

"You could say that's positive, but it's hard for me to feel that way right now."

O'Neill's foot to be X-rayed

Sophomore guard Jennifer O'Neill's injured foot is still being assessed, Mitchell said.

O'Neill, who broke a bone in her toe in the pre-season and experienced setbacks since then, is expected to get a new X-ray on Wednesday.

Mitchell said UK isn't ruling out a redshirt season, but he said she wants to play, and there's no specific time line in place to make that decision.

"There's no cut-off," he said. "If she can have a quality experience this year ... then she wants to help this team win and play this year. If we're in the first week of February and she's not going to be healthy for two more weeks, I'd really talk to her about a redshirt at that point in time."

Mathies' ankle fine

After the loss at Notre Dame, UK's leading scorer, A'dia Mathies, was seen with a bag of ice on her injured left ankle. When asked whether the junior was having problems with the ankle she injured on Dec. 10, Mitchell said he didn't believe so.

"It was a bone bruise, which is painful," he said. "(There's) no structural damage; she has full range of motion; all strength tests check out."

Samford coincidences

Kentucky's men's team played Samford on Tuesday night, and the schools' women's teams meet Wednesday.

It was just a coincidence, UK spokeswoman Susan Lax said Tuesday.

The Samford teams bused to Lexington separately, but the women's team did plan to attend the men's game, Lax said.

Also, the women's game was set before Martin Newton (son of former UK athletics director C.M. Newton) became athletics director at the school in early March.

This will be the first time the programs meet in women's basketball. Mitchell has known Samford Coach Mike Morris for a long time.

Mitchell said Samford's style will be a good test for the UK defense.

"If there's an offense that's constructed and devised schematically to beat pressure defense (like ours), it's the Princeton offense," Mitchell said. "They run that, and they do it well. They really do a good job with backdoor cuts and backdoor passes, and they're a great three-point shooting team."

Teams are hitting just 26 percent from three-point range against UK this season.